CAM blogs

CAM Meets Sophi Dolbear

Sophi grew up around animals and  pursuing a career in Veterinary medicine had always been her life plan.  Having been convinced she would follow in her aunties shoes & become a zoo vet, Sophie quickly realised that she  had a real interest in small animal work & so has mostly focused on internal medicine for the last few years. Sophie absolutely loves the travel opportunities this vocation can create; so has locumed in Australia & is currently out in New Zealand for a year with her husband (who is a large animal vet).

Sophi has been qualified for 5 years now and has more recently become interested in arthritis management having nursed her beautiful old spaniel Tango through her final few years. Tango was a mad, bouncy springer for about 9 or 10 years and then things started to slow down with her. Sophi trialled all sorts of different medications & adjunctive therapies (she was the guinea pig for a wonderful ortho vet who had just learned how to do acupuncture!) and this process really gave her a greatly elevated level of empathy for both dog and owner. Sophi understands how hard it is to accept when your dog can’t walk the miles they used to anymore. Sophi tried her absolute best for Tango and  the knowledge she acquired  from looking after her dog can hopefully be passed on to many more owners of arthritic dogs.


Sophi kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?

I think our initial awareness to ask the questions about arthritis as pets get older is pretty good. What I think we could improve on is educating owners from the outset that it is a progressive condition & that the treatment plan needs to evolve over time. For example, a dog that has been on the same NSAID for years & when that’s not enough anymore, owner decides its time for them to be put to sleep. Everyone has a different level of what they feel is acceptable for their family & their pet. But awareness that the condition needs changes in management as time goes on is really important. We need to make sure every time the dog is seen we discuss the arthritis management, add in other drugs, suggest complimentary therapies etc. Or schedule in 3-6 monthly checks to see how things are going.


As a veterinarian what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

It is not a condition where one size (type of treatment) fits all. Whilst there is generally a common starting ground with pain relief & hopefully joint supplements, there is huge scope for discussion on complimentary therapies & lifestyle changes.  Arthritis management should absolutely be multimodal. Hydrotherapy, acupuncture, laser therapy can have wonderful benefits but aren’t appropriate in all cases. Educating clients into making lifestyle changes for their dogs is a huge area too, where small changes can make a big difference.


How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

Ooh interesting question! More work on developing stem cell therapies? Better client education to improve awareness of the condition. Hopefully people continue to hip & elbow score their breeding dogs to reduce inherited orthopaedic conditions. I’m not sure more dogs with bionic limbs/joints is necessarily the answer but it’s always good to have options!


If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/ piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?

It’s up to you! Dogs will keep going as best they can (especially Labradors who are eternal pleasers!) and try not to show pain. If they are limping, they are in pain, even if they don’t yelp out. It could be more subtle than that though… sleeping more, lagging behind on walks. Therefore, the owner has to be the one to notice changes in their dogs’ behaviour & take steps to alter their day-to-day management. Here are some top tips.

  • Stop taking their dog on long walks at the weekend & keep exercise consistent through the week (little & often is best rather than one longer walk).
  • Stop ball throwing.
  • Get a ramp or a step to help the dog up into the car (dogs are generally not used to ramps so may find the sudden addition of one strange, that’s where just using a single box step (like a toddler step) may work better).

As hard as it is, you have to make those decisions to help keep them comfortable long term.